BRINGING RESEARCH INTO LABORATORY COURSES

A. Ribes-Zamora, S. Amin, A. Simmons-Nout, M. Larios-Sanz, R. Rosell

University of St.Thomas (UNITED STATES)
In order to promote inquiry-based learning, the Biology Department at the University of St. Thomas has taken an innovative approach in upper division laboratory courses in Genetics, Cell Biology and Molecular Biology. Each year, instructors of these laboratories devote a portion of their own research projects to be performed by students in the class. This approach was initially piloted in BIO4393, a laboratory class that was changed from a series of unconnected technique demonstrations to a project-based course where students are involved in hypothesis-driven research and develop an independent scientific project from beginning to end. Students now work out their own hypotheses, carry on experiments and present results in a scientific format. In a recent survey, students taking this class have reported great levels of satisfaction with this approach, an increased understanding of the scientific method and a better integration of concepts from other Biology classes. The Biology faculty are highly committed to continuing this strategy of using actual projects from our individual research laboratories as teaching tools for in-class laboratories. This cross-talk between the research being performed at UST and the science being taught in our classes and laboratories has proven to be an invaluable tool to promote interest in science, recruit more students to perform research and direct more students into STEM-related careers.